I am constantly trying to regain independence and build bridges to my pre-bleed life, as well as relinquishing the burden, and dependence, my injury has placed on Amy.
I have mentioned before how she deferred her PGCE to move to Cheltenham to be my carer.
We decided together, for both of us to feel comfortable and ready for Amy to start her course; certain things had to be put in place. Me being able to walk to and from work by myself was the first one. To safely be able to cook for myself was next. Getting myself to and from Headway was another, to name the most significant milestones.
I have not yet been fit free for a year as my last fit was in December so driving is a still a little way off; getting the bus to Headway is my next challenge to overcome. Until now, Amy has driven me to and from Headway, however, I did entertain her with renditions of Frozen's 'Let It Go'. Amy and I told Headway about our goals and they referred us to The National Star College and their Travel Training scheme.
It may not seem much but travel training was a big deal, as it meant Amy felt more comfortable about starting her course. I'm determined she only defers her course one year, and starts this September, so I don't have long to build up independence; I don't want to interrupt, or delay, her anymore. She'll say it's no problem, because she's amazing.
To cut a long story short I have been working with my travel trainer Phil, who has lots of experience helping people gain back independence. The scheme stops over the summer holidays as they work in school terms, so Phil has kindly given up a lot of his time to put in extra sessions over the last two weeks.
We replicated my journey to Headway at first with Phil taking the lead and showing me what I need to look for and ask for.
The problems I face are: forgetting where I am walking to and what I need to ask for. Thankfully there are no stops on the bus as it is a shuttle bus between hospitals. Phil spent the first two sessions taking lots of photos and finding the points of the journey where I may come across an obstacle. He has made me a flip book of photos with arrows I can use to make sure I get to the bus stop from home and the bus stop to Headway.
This is amazing for me as I know if I have this, I will be okay. There is also a card with what I need to ask for on the bus, which takes away a lot of anxiety.
As I have mentioned before, my bleed means the part of my brain which controls planning functions; the ability to look or plan ahead, has been impaired. So it is difficult for me to look ahead in a journey I know well. This may not sound like the most difficult thing in the world, but until you are in that position, with the same 'limitations' it is difficult to describe. As I have also mentioned before, 'routine' is a powerful weapon in the fight against brain injuries. For example, I am used to going down certain roads in the car journey to Headway, whereas now I found myself on foot, a different realm. I normally remember, or recognise, the entrance to the Headway car park by a certain colourful sign, however now, it is a different route, as we were on foot.
It may not sound like much, but when you have suffered a brain injury, tiny changes make the biggest difference. Having this back up of pictures is brilliant.
While on the scheme, Phil will slowly take a step back, which will allow me to practice and gain confidence on this route all the time having the safety and support of him if I need it. Today I took the lead for the first time, but on Friday we are going to start the next level, which is shadowing. Phil will stay back away for me so essentially I am by myself, but Phil can see me at all times and step in if I attempt to get on the wrong bus or walk the wrong way.
I cannot thank Phil and the Star College enough as I already feel more confident and positive about my independent future.